Consolidate loans to mortgage

Question: Please help... Would it be a good or bad decision to put a non-consolidated Parent Plus Loan into a home refinance? The refinance rate is 4.5 and the student loan is 7.9 (!) I have two other consolidated loans at 3.25 and another at 5.875. I'm currently over the limit (2x) of interest I can deduct, so if included it, the interest it would be deductable, but does it make sense to increase my mortgage by so much (an additional 32K on a 156K mortgage? And I will have to pay an additional .25 point to do the cash out. Will the Plus Loan interest rate be reduced in July? Would it make sense to wait and consolidate? My refinance will settle before I know the next rate. Will the deductable student loan interest rate be raised? I have a line of credit rate currently at 2.5, but they will average 3 years interest to do a fixed loan, so that w on't help now. I would rather keep it separate, but am temped by the 4.5 rate. I want to make the best short and long term decision.... Thanks in advance for considering my question. Mary, Garrett Park, MD

Answer: I want to address the core of your question. I believe one reason why so many middle-income homeowners got into financial trouble in recent years is that they consolidated their debts into first and second mortgages. Yes, the interest payments are tax deductible. But I don't think the tax deduction is worth the extra risk.

For instance, it always upset me when financial advisors would recommend consolidating credit card debt into a mortgage. That's crazy. I feel the same way about student loans. There is financial flexibility with Parent Plus loans, such as a graduated payment plan, income sensitive payment plan, and an extended payment plan. (Of course, the price for taking advantage of these options is the overall cost of the loan goes up.) If you pay off the loan by rolling it into your mortgage you'll lose that flexibility, and increase the risk of losing your home if you have a job or income setback.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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